Assessing writing has always been tricky - it's highly subjective and can be hard to pin-point what makes one piece of writing better than the other. However, I've lost count of the number of times a born writer with oodles of creativity in my class could technically be denied the 'greater depth/exceeding' grade against a rubric too heavily focused on handwriting and punctuation. As a writer myself, I've always given more clout to creativity when assessing writing and always will because ultimately if minor errors in punctuation don't interrupt the flow of a child's writing, why penalise them if their ideas and 'voice' leave you open-mouthed? Similarly, there's no way I'd be giving 'greater depth' to a piece that has all the ingredients but no zing.
We should assess writing as a reader first, teacher second. The discipline teachers are trying to teach kids is to write so that; they engage the reader, they hook that reader in, they reach out to an audience and say something that is worthwhile, entertaining, compelling and that is precisely what I look for. Successful authors world-wide know that this is their craft. This is what readers look for when considering which new book to buy and this is what any rubric for assessing writing should give the greatest weight to.
Someone who feels the same is Richard d'Souza, a former teacher and now PhD student at the University of Exeter, who is working on a project part -funded by Arvon and the government. Frustrated by the formulaic writing that our current assessment of writing so often produces, he is looking at ways in which we can accurately assess creativity in writing with a view to putting more emphasis on creativity in the writing process. This is fantastic news as far as I’m concerned and the government are listening - they funded it - so this could be the start of a much improved framework that won’t penalise our writers for missing an apostrophe when their creative idea is verging on genius.
Being involved in the project has been incredibly formative for me professionally and I'm glad that I could add my voice to the explorations. I am very much looking forward to the outcomes of the project where Richard can create an improved assessment framework for writing, one that that specifies what real creative writing entails and one that promotes and nurtures the writing of our future authors.